Redding Dragstrip Saves Historical Piece of Northern California Hot Rod History


A Sign of the Times

Words by Todd Silvey

Photos courtesy Heather Nickles - Instagram @Hotrod.Heather

A piece of Redding, Calif., hot rod history has found a new home at the Redding Dragstrip, the oldest west coast NHRA-sanctioned drag strip in the United States today. The Gene’s Hamburgers sign had stood in its location in front of the namesake drive-in on Market Street for over fifty years. The drive-in hamburger joint had been the favorite cruise through for many years until sold in 2012. The sign stood alone after the defunct drive-in was demolished. The local Enterprise High School Car Club members thought it was a shame to see the loss of the sign and started organizing an effort to get it moved to the dragstrip.

Jake Woods, manager at Redding Dragstrip, took the reins from there and started working to make it happen.


“I saw a post on Facebook that Gene’s was going out of business and the new owners were going to demolish the building,” Woods says. “Someone commented that the dragstrip should try to take the sign. I said let’s do it, and it all moved forward from there.”


Caleb Hurst, one of the car club members at the high school, got in touch with Mike Nash, son of original owner, Gene Nash.


“Nash was all for giving it to the track since we’re a nonprofit,” Woods says. “The community has come along and helped us out substantially with funding.”

Pat Corey, the owner of McHale’s Sign Company, offered to restore the sign free of charge. The company took down the sign, moved it to their store and completely refinished it to look like new. It was a lot of work with a cost of around $1,000 just to move the sign across town.


“He’s not a racer, but he certainly wanted the sign to stay up in the town,” Woods says of Corey. “Originally, the historical society was going to get the sign, but they had no intentions of restoring it or installing it anywhere. We didn’t want to see it just sitting in the corner of a building where no one would ever see it or be able to enjoy it again.”


The majority of the people in the area, especially the car lovers, definitely saw the value of moving the sign out to the dragstrip.


“That hamburger place was a huge hot rod spot for locals for as long as I can remember,” Woods says. “My family has only been here since the early 2000s, but we appreciated everything the townspeople said about it. They have tons of memories, and they held car shows there until it closed.”

Plans came together nicely, and McHale’s Sign Company had the power run and the footings in place in time to get the sign set and ready to light up in early April. A last-minute announcement brought a horde of fans out to the track for a sign lighting ceremony and celebration on April 22. That was a fitting tribute to the Nash family’s heritage.


It is appropriate that the sign was completed and installed at a rapid pace. Redding Dragstrip hosts the annual "Kool April Nights" events which fill not only the dragstrip with Nostalgia and exhibition racing but occupies the entire town of Redding with a classic car event with thousands of entries.


You can still get a burger under the Gene’s sign.  



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